Chicago Travel Industry Gathers Together at Golf Outing

Chicago Travel Industry Gathers Together at Golf Outing

The Las Vegas foursome included, from left, Hana Peterson and Tara Schwan, both of Travel Leaders Travel Now in New Richmond, Wis.;Joel Peterson, of the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority; and Corey Lassman, the Chicago-based business development manager for Apple Leisure Group Vacations. (Photo by Theresa Norton)

Chicago-area travel and hospitality industry executives gathered July 18 at a charity golf outing held at Prairie Landing Golf club in West Chicago, Ill.

About 112 played in the 18-hole golf scramble and were joined by another 44 attendees for the after-golf cocktails, buffet dinner, and many raffle prizes and trips sold at a live auction. The event is chaired by Dan Trankina, business development manager for Pleasant Holidays | Journese.

Last year, the Chicagoland Travel Industry & Hospitality Golf Outing raised $5,000 for Make-A-Wish Illinois, a non-profit charity that helps to “create life-changing wishes for children with critical illnesses.” Make-A-Wish was represented this year by Ashley White, who explained how the charity works and also expressed appreciation for the fund-raiser.

Chicago Travel Industry Gathers Together at Golf Outing

From left, Jake Coldiron, national manager of golf sales for Sandals/Unique Vacations Inc.; Theresa Norton, editor of AGENTatHOME magazine and contributor to TravelPulse; and Chris Martin, business development manager-Midwest, for Sandals/Unique Vacations Inc. (Photo by Theresa Norton)

Trankina also expressed gratitude. “I would personally like to thank all the vendors and more who truly are the backbone of this event,” he said. “Their contributions for hole sponsorships, dinner tables and of course their generosity providing trips for this incredible charity event benefits Make-A-Wish Illinois.

“I’d also like to thank our travel advisors who have withstood the challenges the last two years of the pandemic, cancellations, airlines issues and on and on. That they persevered through another challenging time is a testament to their tenacity and love for making dreams come true. In this case, that’s also true for Make-A-Wish.

Chicago Travel Industry Gathers Together at Golf Outing

The board planning the event includes, from left, Chairman Dan Trankina, business development manager for Pleasant Holidays; Ashley White of Make-A-Wish Illinois; Craig Ochoa of You’re No. 1 Inc.; and Roger Kraemer of CIE. (Photo by Theresa Norton)

“I must share how privileged I feel to be working with such a fantastic team/board who I count on to make this event the success it is and what it has turned into the last few years. Thanks to our volunteers for their time and efforts. This is not an easy event to put together, but the rewards and purpose are worth every minute.”

The 2021 golf outing was especially poignant and celebratory since it had been two years since people were able to socialize in person. Participants this year said it was just as important now to continue to nurture relationships between suppliers and travel advisors face-to-face as often as possible.

Chicago Travel Industry Gathers Together at Golf Outing

From left, Wendy Jensen, business development manager at Sandos Hotels & Resorts; Ashlea Varca, senior travel industry sales manager for Four Seasons Resorts Lanai and representing Midwest Ohana; Margaret Campbell, senior director of marketing for Mayflower Cruises & Tours; and Judy O’Brien, business development manager at Mayflower. (Photo by Theresa Norton)

“It is a great way to reconnect with a lot of our travel advisors, who we’ve been vacant from for the past two years,” said Joel Petersen, sales executive with the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority. “So many of our travel advisors today have been starving to get back into live and in-person events with their supplier partners. We’re so tired of looking at each other through square screens. Just to be able to hug someone and get back into that one-on-one engagement. That is so paramount for our destination to have that relationship with our travel advisors, and this is a great forum to do that.”

Pam Carroll, of Gababout Travel in Palos Hills, Ill., agrees. “I love all these people and I love the socializing,” she said. “I’m not a good golfer at all, but I do like to get together with everybody and support the travel industry. For two years, we didn’t do anything, and we missed everybody. So, it’s just nice to get together.”

Chicago Travel Industry Gathers Together at Golf Outing

Enjoying the after-golf festivities were Pam Carroll, of Gadabout Travel in Palos Hills, Ill., left, and Aggie Lewis of Aggie’s Travel in Oak Lawn, Ill. (Photo by Theresa Norton)

She said business has really grown over the past year. “I’m thrilled that business has picked up again,” Carroll said. “We can’t wait for all testing requirements to go away; we’ll be busier than ever. Everybody is booking a lot more higher-end than they were before. I think there’s a lot of people that were saving their whole life to go to Italy, Hawaii, wherever, and then for two years they thought they may never get there. So now they want the best. Nobody wants the garden-view room, they all want the oceanfront room.”

Tom Karnes, co-owner LaMacchia Travel in Kenosha, Wis., a storefront that just launched a host agency called LaMacchia Jet Stream, said the pandemic spurred an influx of new-to-travel-agent clients.

“When things slowed down from the pandemic and business came back, I would say 30 to 40 percent of business was new to a travel agency and new to us,” Karnes said. “That was exciting at the beginning, but they’re a tough nut to handle” since new clients often require education.

Chicago Travel Industry Gathers Together at Golf Outing

Husband-and-wife agency owners Monica and Tom Karnes flank Christopher Dobson, district sales manager-Midwest, for the Jamaica Tourism Board. (Photo by Theresa Norton)

But the golf outing and other such industry events “renew the energy of what we do,” Karnes said. “These events prior to covid were fun, but at a certain point they were also taken for granted. But post-covid, we’re so thrilled to get back out here. Things we took for granted pre, oh my God, do we appreciate them now!”

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